John Oliver’s “Last Week Tonight” recently lambasted a topic all of us are familiar with by now: Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. His brilliant criticism, though not the first, is one of the few times that we have seen a high- profile political commentator address the elephant in the room: “At this point Donald Trump is America’s back mole. It may have seemed harmless a year ago, but now that it’s gotten frighteningly bigger it’s no longer wise to ignore it.”
Initially, neither political strategists nor comedians gave much validity to Trump’s candidacy. David Axelrod, Chief Strategist on both of Obama’s campaigns, regrets his initial disregard for Trump’s campaign. In his article for The New York Times he said, “Like most of the other talking heads on TV, I was haughtily dismissive of Donald Trump’s candidacy… Even as he climbed to the top of polls, I confidently predicted that the outrageous Mr. Trump, as transfixing and ubiquitous as he was, was merely a summer fling. He would fade in the fall, when Republican voters got serious about making a long-term commitment,” said Axelrod.
Despite primary victories and delegate counts, Republicans and Democrats alike continue to find it hard to give any real credit to Trump. Trump’s outlandish statements and his TV personality lead the mainstream media to underestimate him. Now, his current lead in the polls, his success on Super Tuesday and his potential to be the Republican nominee require all Americans to start taking him seriously. “For a lot of people it’s easy to think of Donald Trump as a joke, but purely by the numbers he’s not. He’s an unprecedented and unpredictable political force. For one, Trump wins with different corners of the Republican party that no candidate has been able to win before. He crosses this divide in the GOP that’s been in place since the civil rights era,” said Zach Toombs, Director of News at “Newsy.”
For most of the American public, it is hard to rationalize what people see in this man who has been described by many as a racist, a misogynist and a narcissist. However, Trump is very appealing to 49 percent of Republicans. As John Oliver stated on his program, “If you are someone who’s sick of the party establishment, he may seem like a protest candidate with some attractive qualities.” Trump supporters point to his aggressive bluntness, business prowess and strength as characteristics they find appealing.
Many Americans are taking Donald Trump seriously, and it is time for the rest of us to treat him as such. When Donald Trump first announced that he would be running for president, comedian Larry Morgan described his candidacy as “a gift” from the comedy gods. “All the jokes are officially writing themselves” Morgan stated, but Trump is no longer a joke. From now on we need to start treating Trump like the threat he is. Alec MacDonald of “Elite Daily” suggests that “the reason Trump is doing so well — despite consistently saying things only your drunk uncle would say — is that, unfortunately, it’s the most perfect camouflage in the world for your opponents not to take you seriously.”
Trump and his supporters are a powerful force. It is easy to write these voters off as anomalies, but they represent a sizable faction of Americans. In the sketch, “Voters for Trump Ad, “Saturday Night Live” paints all of Trump’s supporters as extreme racists, Klan members, Nazis and white supremacists. This is not a productive message. This sketch supports the idea that Trump only appeals to afringepopulation.Whilethisideamaybecomforting, it is not reality. Trump has a much wider appeal than his opponents would like to admit.
It is time for comedians and politicians to start taking Trump seriously. It is time to push Trump on his issues. It is time to call him out on his character and his inconsistencies. The focus of comedians needs to move from “check out this ridiculous spectacle” to “this is why these policies wouldn’t work and why we should care.” With regard to Trump, John Oliver points out that “A candidate for president needs a coherent set of policies…we have no way of knowing which of his inconsistent views he will hold in office.” The media has been treating Trump like a celebrity, a character there for our amusement, but this can not continue. It is time to start treating him like he could be the next president of the United States, because he very well could be.
Sabrina Leung ‘18 is the Digital Editor majoring in International Relations-Political Science with a minor in History. She is best reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or @sabrinatzleung on Twitter.